Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Red vs. BlueHere in Connecticut, the mostly Democrat legislature recently passed a budget and sent it on to our governor, also a Democrat, to sign off on.

All hell broke loose.

The Republicans balked that the “new” taxes were too high and that it was terrible, devastating even, for businesses that operated within the state.

Big companies like General Electric and Aetna jumped on the bandwagon criticizing the additional taxes they’d have to “apparently” now have to pay.

General Electric even threatened relocating. Gasp!

Of course, some investigative reporter types soon pointed out that the “new” business taxes they’d been lamenting were taxes those companies were exempt from anyway as a result of getting special tax credits as incentive to do business in Connecticut.

Didn’t matter though — the Republicans had gotten their message on the airwaves first and they continued to dominate the headlines.

Connecticut taxes are going up and it will be crippling to everyone and all of the employers will leave the state.

Mass hysteria.

Truth of the matter is — unless you’re making over $500k per year, chances are, your taxes for 2014 will actually go down.

Yep, 99% of us will be paying less tax but we’re freaking out that we’ll be paying more…and losing our jobs in the process.

Love how that works. All mis-truths.

Political mis-truths.

So, with all of the uproar, the governor called a special session to amend the already voted on and approved budget.

The Democrats made some concessions with the Republican minority and put together a “new” budget. It all got done last night.

This morning’s headline — from the Republicans in state government…

“State is Destined for a Shortfall”

You can’t make this stuff up.

So…the Republicans originally claimed that the tax increases were out of line, got the public all riled up and forced the Democrat majority to make concessions, which they did, and now the Republican’s claim the budget — the one they essentially neutered and approved — will lead to a shortfall in the state’s coffers.

I despise that this is how the American government operates.

It’s ludicrous that the Republicans are trying to have it both ways and putting the Democrats at fault…in both scenarios.

They misled the public and business leaders at the onset in an attempt to smear the primarily Democrat budget.

Then, when they got exactly what they’d wanted on a do-over, they immediately proclaimed that the new budget was inadequate. Worse than before, even.

Since the current governor is a Democrat, he owns it even though the Republican minority is who essentially wrote the final version.

It’s not a lean left or lean right type of thing.

Both parties play the same game.

In this specific case, the Democrats pulled a 180 degree turn due to politically induced public pressure… Basically flip flopping from a ‘Yes’ all the way to a ‘No’.

The Republicans claim the the budget was 100% garbage before the flip and continues to be 100% garbage after the flop.

There is apparently no middle ground.

But that’s the thing, in reality, both version of the budget were a middle ground.

In something as complicated and widespread as a state budget, you’re going to win some battles and you’re going to lose some battles. Weigh your options and hammer out something that pseudo works for every one.

That’s exactly what happens in the government.

Then, they get in front of microphones and cameras and proclaim that, if they’re the not the party in power, that the legislation (proposed or otherwise) is 100% wrong.

The only thing that’s 100% wrong are their claims.

It’s no wonder this country is so divided.

We really need another party…or ten along side the Republicans and the Democrats.

You know, like the other countries on the planet that already have universal healthcare, free education, “working” gun laws, and politicians that know they need to work with others to get things done.

Sure, they have higher taxes than us (which is what it always seems to come back to in the USA) but guess what?

They have more services too.

Services that we’re currently paying for out of our pockets…and paying more for than we would if it were built into our taxes.

Sounds pretty great, right? Fewer things to pay for and more money in your pocket.

Yes, your taxes would go up… considerably.

But guess what? You’d still come out ahead.

Most of the world has already figured this out.

The US is too stubborn to even consider it.

Oh crap, I’m starting to sound like I’m supporting Bernie Sanders for President.

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SpellingToday, while writing an email, that little red line showed up under the word “advisor”.

I looked at it.

I looked at it some more.

Hmmmm, that looks right to me.

And then I started to doubt myself and subsequently forgot how to sepll htings ntirley.

So here’s what I found out:

Adviser and advisor are both accepted spellings of the noun meaning one who advises or counsels. There is no difference between them. But adviser, the older version, is listed as the primary spelling in most dictionaries, and it is about five times as common as advisor in current news publications from throughout the English-speaking world.

In the U.S. and Canada, advisor is commonly used in official job titles, but adviser is still generally preferred over advisor in North America, and advisor is only marginally more common in American and Canadian English than in other varieties of English.

Um, okay.

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock or perhaps it’s because I pretty much only see the word used as an “official job title” but I’m all but certain that I’ve never seen it spelled “adviser”.

Like, ever.

And they say it’s the more common spelling?

Please…

I’m going to go ask my walking 6-year old thesaurus.

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End in SightJust ten weeks ago, when I embarked on a very aggressive payment plan, I still owed $11099 on the Swagger Wagon loan.

Today, my balance is $5410, putting me just a little beyond the half way point.

I’m ecstatic.

It certainly hasn’t been as cut and dry as I’d originally thought it would be as I’ve run out of money a couple of times and gotten dinged with maintenance fees for dipping below the minimum balance threshold on my checking account.

I’m also a little surprised that I’ve only been able to make a handful of extra payments so far (on top of the already scheduled “extra” payments).

I guess my debt paying skills have grown rusty. Hmph.

But that said, I’m just now coming upon a remaining balance where I can apply my “red zone finances” method of ridding debt.

Now, with the end in sight, I’m sure I’ll be able to “scrounge” up a few bucks here and there to get me to the end point sooner.

Can’t wait to rid myself of the $444.15 monthly payment, freeing that up for use elsewhere in my unwritten budget, and, once again, own all of my cars free and clear again.

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Skipping to the 2nd GradeShould we let my oldest son do it?

It’s a difficult to make decision which, thankfully, we have a few months to evaluate before anything actually happens.

While we’d heard things like, “He should take advanced summer courses” and “He’s far above grade level” during the school year, I’d kinda chalked it up to, sure, he’s above average but he’s not, you know, a nerd.

Now, I’m not so sure.

During the last week of school, his teacher went out of her way to mention “skipping” first grade so that he could take the “gifted” classes that begin being offered at the grade two level.

Apparently, within the school, it’s already been discussed.

My first instinct is to go for it — always take advantage of opportunities presented that are only offered to a very limited few.

I mean, I have little doubt that he could keep up with kids a year older than him.

I’m not saying that because he’s my kid, I’m saying it cause it’s been pretty clear since he was about 3 years old. He just “gets” it and knows how to “fit” in.

Sure, I still catch him watching Bubble Guppies (geared towards the under-3 crowd) on television every now and then but, hey, everyone has a guilty pleasure they’re not proud of.

Really, for me, it comes down to three pillars that my wife and I really need to come to terms with: Athletics, Academics, and, most importantly, his Social Skills.

We also need to know what he wants to do should this opportunity come to fruition.

Athletics
Easy Out at KickballDuring the childcare program he attends after school each day, he occasionally complains that he’s considered an “easy out” during the kickball games where kids from kindergarten through fifth grade play alongside one another.

I’ve told him that, “Yeah, compared to a fifth grader, you probably are an “easy” out. But just wait until you’re in fifth grade! You won’t be then!”

(I’ve also told him it’s called “Paying your dues” and asked, “Are you the “easiest” out?” (he’s obviously not) in an attempt to ease his frustrations. My parenting style is to “keep it real” as often as I can.)

But that makes me recall my own years in school even though I was never fortunate enough to skip a grade.

See, there was this one guy on an opposing track team that I had a difficult time getting past in high school — truthfully, my only *real* competition where both of us would go all out and it’d be a crapshoot as to who won on any given day.

It was only years later, via a Facebook birthday alert of all things, that I came to learn that this guy who I’d thought was a year younger than me was actually nearly THREE YEARS OLDER than me.

I didn’t know then but he’d apparently started school late *and* been held back a year somewhere along the way.

Not surprisingly, he ran some *very* impressive times — far exceeding my personal bests — after I’d graduated.

I was 17 when I finished high school.

He was pushing 20.

That makes a HUGE difference when it comes to athletics.

While that’s a pretty unusual circumstance (I hope, anyway), if my son skips first grade, he’ll pretty much be in the same situation, but not against one or two peers, instead, it will be nearly all of them.

Not a big deal for the gifted child that aims to play the violin in their spare time or volunteer at some sort of algae growing scientific lab but it is a bit of a problem for the gifted child who prefers to play hockey and soccer, you know, where size and strength hold a little more weight than brain power.

While youth athletics could be considered unimportant to many adults when put up against academics (which prepare you for the rest of your life), for me, well, they’re practically neck-in-neck.

My “Say NO to education” post is evidence of that.

I was a very good student. I was also a very good athlete and, for me, those two things were not independent of one another. My high school transcript is proof that as I became an elite athlete, my grades took off too.

With out my success on the track, my grades would’ve faltered, I’m sure.

I don’t want to make it all but impossible for him to compete on the field…

Being an “easy out” or picked last, perpetually, sucks.

Academics
Sure, he’s still a dozen years from graduating from high school but, in an odd sort of way, it almost feels like he could have the valedictorian crown all but in his pocket already.

I mean, at his year end show, he walked up to the microphone with his entire grade seated behind him, and delivered what could only be described as a valedictory speech, kindergarten-style, of course, but he did it with pride and confidence — something I could never do.

Valedictory Speech

And he was the only kid in his grade given the chance to speak to the crowd while the other children did things like the chicken dance and five green speckled frogs in large groups.

(Oddly, he never even told me or my wife what he was going to be doing — total shock when we saw his name in the program by itself and not part of a larger group!)

Now, pushing 40 years old, I know that your class rank in high school doesn’t really mean a thing. For the record, I finished 9th in my graduating class without even trying. Number one and two were total dweebs.

No, really.

D.W.E.E.B.S.

One still isn’t married.

Probably lives with his mom too…

Not even kidding…

Either way, it didn’t get any of us anything in life besides a day or two of pride.

But I am a little concerned that by skipping a grade he could go from gifted to… middle of the pack.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it would just seem cruel as a parent to essentially make school difficult as if the reward for exceeding expectations was, well, harder work and an endless uphill battle.

Yeah, yeah, it builds character, keeps him from getting bored in school, and all that but I don’t want it to backfire either.

That could be a catastrophic result going back to this one decision made in kindergarten.

Social Skills
Thankfully, from the day I arrived at school, I carved out a pretty good niche for myself and consistently moved up the social ladder peaking during my senior year of high school.

I was never perceived as either a nerd or a jock — wearing neither image on my sleeve. The reality of it though is that I probably could have been classified as either.

I wasn’t the coolest guy out there but I was never near the bottom either. Best of all, I always considered myself better than the folks above me.

Ego? Or abundant self-confidence? Who knows…

Anyway, growing up, your place on the social scale matters. A lot.

If it didn’t, you’d never hear about kids killing themselves over being cyber bullied. I mean, how crazy is that? Seriously, mean people suck.

But no one likes to be a nerd — in the stereotypical sense.

And no one likes to be the little guy either.

I don’t recall anyone from my youth skipping a grade but I can name every single kid that stayed back — it was a stigma they couldn’t shake, ever, as I can still name names.

Even still, I’d imagine there’d be a matching stigma for kids that do skip a grade. Every one in your old grade would know you skipped…and everyone in your new grade would also know.

It’s not like he’s starting early, or late, or switching to a new school. That’d be easy to “hide”.

But this is the same school full of the same kids — he’ll just have skipped a year — and everyone will know. And remember.

Leader of the PackI don’t want to “rob” him of the spot on the social scale that he’s already claimed as his own. He is the smartest kid. He is one of the best athletes. And apparently, everybody likes him too. He’s a leader, of sorts…

I mean, we’ve been in line at McDonald’s before and two girls — clearly far beyond kindergarten age — go out of their way to say hi to him and then tell they’re mom who he is like he’s some sort of local celebrity or something.

Totally bizarre experience…that’s happened more than once.

As his dad, truthfully, I’m shocked… but I’m also a little jealous too.

Pridefully jealous, you know? This kid has it made.

Could moving him to a new grade knock him off the rails?

Sure it could, but he’s always been great at meeting new people (he plays hockey with kids as old as 12 and they treat him as “one of the guys” when, from my perspective, he hasn’t earned it) and he apparently “plays” with a bunch of the kids heading into second grade at recess already so that doesn’t concern me as much as I think it could/should.

But I also think of my middle son.

Growing up, I’d always wished I had a sibling in the same school as me — preferably a brother.

My sister and I were 5 years apart so we had essentially zero overlap. My two oldest boys were lined up to be 2 grades apart. Perfect.

Skipping a grade would push it to three grades apart. Not the worst but…not what I’ve been imagining for a long time either.

I know, it’s their life and not mine, but a guy can dream, right?

Coincidently, my little MMA fighter is actually appears to be “smarter” than my oldest was at the same age.

Maybe they could *both* skip the first grade and get back to being two grades apart?

Can you imagine catching lightning in a bottle like that twice?

For real, though, my wife and I should sign a book deal and divulge our child rearing secrets…

Here’s a teaser: Ice cream for dinner and R-rated movies.

Move over Baby Einstein…

Though, now, having been validated as amazing parents, we’ll probably blow it for our youngest (the deformed one) by actually trying to be amazing parents…

– – – – – – – – – – –

English Language Oddity
Isn’t it weird how skipping a grade is considered a good thing but skipping class is not?

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Rubberband BallI’ve never supported the concept of working from home.

I mean, I hold a position where telecommuting is totally do-able — there really isn’t anything that I physically need to be in the building for; it can all be done pretty much anywhere I have a keyboard, monitor (or three), and an internet connection.

I also consider myself responsible and trust-worthy enough not to claim I’m “working” from home when, in reality, I’m doing my weekly grocery shopping.

But I don’t think it’s a wise alternative for companies to be offering — even for me.

First and foremost, face time matters.

In theory, yes, besides making an awesome rubber band ball, I could do pretty much everything required at my job from my PC at home while wearing pajamas.

But would it be efficient?

Absoulutely not.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “solved” or “side-stepped” an issue of my own or others as a result of overhearing someone in the office.

If everyone’s at home, there is undoubtedly limited communication and zero teamwork.

While that might be great for the individual in their pajama pants ‘working’, cough, cough, grocery shopping, it’s bad for business.

And, no, just having a phone with you doesn’t count as “working” unless your job solely consists of talking on the phone.

Ever tried to modify even the simplest of Excel spreadsheets on your phone? Yeah, good luck with that.

I guess my real stance is that attendance matters.

From the fourth grade on, I never missed a single day of school. Not one.

(Let’s not talk about third grade… It included a two week stint in the hospital for appendicitis, a week off for the chicken pox, and probably 10 other days of just general illness too.)

Now, I may have implied that education isn’t important numerous times on this site and I’m not going to argue any differently here.

Anyone can get an education. It just takes a little time and effort.

So, yeah, education helps in “life” but you know what else counts more?

Just being there.

Consistently. Everyday.

Every office has that person that seems to habitually just not show up 3 or 4 times a month. Or that dude that comes in late, takes long lunches, or leaves super early EVERY SINGLE DAY. You know, that name that makes you roll your eyes?

Pretty frustrating when you need that person and they’re not there, you know, when they should be, right?

As it is, that happens a lot. Multiply the propensity by 100 if you’re talking about tele-commuters.

For real, drives me crazy when the “work from home” folks ask me if I saw the lady trip and fall on the Price is Right yesterday.

Um, no? I was at work. You know, working.

In fact, while I do enjoy the Price is Right, I haven’t seen an episode since 1996 when, well, I wasn’t working yet.

See what I mean?

So, when looking at my son’s report card this past week (he just finished kindergarten), his attendance for the whole year is listed.

0 days absent.
0 days tardy.
0 days dismissed early.

That’s right — 180 days of school and not a minute missed.

Report CardWhile I was never recognized in high school for never missing a day (they stopped acknowledging the feat years earlier as it had apparently turned into something so rare that the school administrators assumed(?) that it was no longer possible), I’ve always kinda wished I had been.

I know for a fact that I was the only one in my graduating class.

But, to my pleasant surprise, my son’s school principal (who reviews and signs all of the final report cards) acknowledged and even wrote a personal message recognizing his attendance record — calling it “amazing“.

Bit of a strong word if you ask me…

So, while I’m proud that my son is following my lead when it comes to “showing up”, I’ve also gained some comfort in knowing that things that seemingly go unnoticed aren’t *always* unrecognized.

Just “showing up” is a more valued asset than it’s given credit for.


– – – – – – – – – – –

Fried EggEgg on my Face

My streak continued in university too…and then in the workplace.

I’ve been at the same company for over 18 years and I’ve called out sick, very reluctantly, once. EVER.

And that was 15 years in…due to a vomiting spell that occurred precisely every 45 minutes.

Oddest and most predictable projectile vomit related illness I’ve ever had.

For real, I’d feel pretty much okay for around 40 minutes… and then puke my guts out for 5 minutes. Went on, like clockwork, for around 16 hours.

Embarrassingly, I hate to admit it now but…I “worked from home” that day.

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FitBit HR ChargeMy wife received a FitBit HR for her birthday this past weekend and I put it on for around 25 seconds. This is my review.

Pretty solid build — a little like the rubbery material Swatch watches were made of in the 1980’s.

At the same time, while solid, it also kinda looks a bit like a Happy Meal toy giveaway — cheap really.

No one really remembers those days when McDonald’s handed out “tech” things so, apparently, it’s okay to charge $150 for something visually very similar.

On the plus side, while the material feels like a Swatch, they’ve pressed a pattern into it so it’s not arm-hair pulling — think of a really wide and tight elastic on your arm.

Yeah, it’s nothing like that.

It has a couple of flashing lights on the bottom side that touch your wrist that I’m guessing are checking out your blood flow to calculate your pulse — kinda like those one finger clothes-pin style pulse meters.

It also has a real watchband clasp unlike the friction clasp that the regular Charge model has. That alone made it worth $25 more in my book as it can’t just “fall” off.

My wife, though, disagreed and thought the less expensive model would be more comfortable.

The small display bar only lights up with the time when you tap it or press the one button on the side.

I realize that this is a battery saving measure and can totally respect that. However, the trend with most modern devices to have so few buttons is highly annoying.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated trying to turn a tablet on or off. There’s only one button — do you hold it down? Do you not hold it down? Is there some sort of magic pressing pattern required to make it do something?

With a singe button, this “new” wearable technology is akin to the on-board “computer” on my nearly 20-year old car.

You know, where you set the clock using a single button and endlessly frustrating patterns to jump from hour to minute.

Even my current Blu-Ray player only has a couple of buttons. One to turn it on and one to eject the disc. Should I lose or break the remote, well, the whole device becomes a paperweight.

I hate that.

The FitBit HR Charge is also not waterproof. I dunno, if a wearable device is suppose to “track” your daily activities, you’d think they’d ensure that it can be worn in the shower.

I know why it’s not waterproof but whichever company figures out a way to make it that way, well, that’ll be a game changer. Hey, watches are waterproof…and have been for like 30 years, right?

Anyway, in the short time that I wore it (no, I didn’t get a rash), it told me that it was 7:31PM and that my heart was beating 85 beats per minute.

Pretty uninteresting stuff, right there.

It also told me, since my wife had been wearing it pretty much all day, how many steps had been taken (with a little progress bar pushing her towards 10k, I’d assume), how far she’d traveled, and how many calories had been burned.

Now, as a geek, I could tear down the accuracy of all of these number with ease.

I mean, only a moron would think a device like this, straight out of the box, could be accurate with so little to go on and so many variables a strap of rubber with a blinking few lights could never know.

(Yes, I know you can “customize” it to your regular stride length and that sort of thing to make it slightly more accurate but I’m certain that 90% of their owners never even bother.)

That said — I don’t think precise accuracy is the point or purpose of the device.

With the Fibit displaying that she only had about 1200 steps to go until she hit the 10k mark, guess what?

We went on a late evening walk.

At a time when, usually, we’d just be lounging on the couch waiting for the kids to fall asleep.

And, while the numbers are just that, numbers, and essentially meaningless…those tiny numbers got her (and me…and three kids) up and moving at a time when, well, frankly, it was couch potato time.

That’s where the FitBit excels.

And until the current fad of wearable technology wears off, that’s probably a good thing for our society.

Get up, and get moving.


– – – – – – – – –

PIAC Tangent
Hilariously, my kids refer to it as a “Fibbit”.

Somehow I’m pretty sure that their marketing department failed to test the final product name in a focus group of young children.

(Makes you wonder how/why the drug companies approved names like Latuda and Farxiga, doesn’t it? I find both names (and their commercials) hilarious.)

Sure, the FitBit isn’t geared towards that ageset anyway (though the wrist band does get small enough to fit my 6-year old) but I can just imagine people saying to their friends, “Oh, I walked over 14 miles yesterday…” with the group croaking “Fibbit! Fibbit!” in the background.

In Fitbit’s defense, they can always claim that the accuracy is just a “reasonable” guess…so, yeah, feel free to fib a little bit.

For real, though, like with solving money issues, the key is motivation and momentum.

The FitBit Charge HR delivers on both fronts…if you keep wearing it.

But NEVER in the shower.

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Cap and DiplomaRead an article in the paper today lamenting about how millennials are “coming of age in a harsh economy”.

I swear, they must publish the exact same article during graduation season each year… And have been for at least the last 30 years…

Seriously, I’m all but positive my local paper published the exact same article when I graduated from high school way back in 1994.

“Oh, these kids won’t have jobs waiting for them because the baby boomers aren’t stepping out of the workforce…”

This article, though, gave them a “name” of sorts — NEETs — that I hadn’t seen before.

It stands for Not in Education, Employment, or Training.

Losers. Get off your lazy ass and get a job.

But really, the economic “climate” — for jobs, anyway — is pretty much the same as it’s been since the early 1990’s as far as I’m concerned.

I know more PhD’s than you can imagine.

No, not cause they’re brainy but because they couldn’t find jobs…so they just stayed in school.

No joke, one guy I lived with in University had a commerce degree and an arts degree already…while we were pursuing engineering degrees at the same time.

Nowadays? He has like 5 masters, some sort of fancy MBA title thrown in there and he’s a doctor of something too.

To his credit, now in his 40’s, he continues to refer to himself jokingly as a professional student just as he did when I first met him.

Really, though, his resume consists of 90% education and 10% actual work experience. I mean, he almost has to break the “limit it to one page” resume rule just to list out his higher learning credentials.

I’ve said he should just become part of the system — like a professor or something — but he insists he’s still “looking” for a job.

I guess, since he’s still in education, he’s not a great example of a NEET.

Or maybe people have finally figured out that getting a degree doesn’t magically turn into a job?

Frankly, that’s a nearly 50-year old way of thinking.

My dad had a degree in philosphy and somehow turned that into a 30+ year IT career in the insurance industry. Really?

Yeah, that kinda thing worked 50 years ago… not so much now.

Of course, all of those commericals that you see on television for associate degrees, MBA’s, and online classes from the University of Phoenix would have you thinking differently…

Hey, I can take night classes on my own time and, poof, a few MONTHS down the road with my new certificate, I’ll be placed in a position of leadership — so high that I don’t even really have to ‘work’ because I’m so qualified — at a trendy company.

Um, no.

You’ll still be working where you are now, be a few thousand dollars more in debt, and be no nearer to being handed the job that never truly existed.

So, you rather than go the NEET route (where does that lead?), just start at the bottom somewhere and work hard.

Guess what?

Chances are, your higher education background (or lack of) won’t matter one bit.

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MMA for ChildrenMy middle son, Henrik, has somehow developed a knack for, well, full contact fighting.

I mean, it’s uncanny how, with ZERO training, he can pretty much take anyone to the ground with ease.

He also appears to take punches and elbows to the face with, well, indifference. It’s crazy.

I mean, you should see what his knees look like!?

I know all little kids have banged up knees but, for real, this kid’s shins look like he’s just come home from some sort of archaic barbed wire factory’s quality control department.

Sure, he still requests the token band-aid on a near daily basis but it’s clear that what most kids would consider a mortal injury are simply signs of toughness for him.

Makes me wonder if, perhaps, we should encourage these talents (within reason) that he apparently has a natural instinct for at just four years of age.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want cauliflower ears in his future and I’d be horrified to ever learn that he’s a bully to anyone but his older brother.

In fact, I’m kind of turned off by UFC and MMA events.

I mean, I’ll watch them when they’re on free television every three months, you know, if there’s nothing else on.

And we never watch boxing or, ugh, professional wrestling either.

I can honestly say that we’ve never inundated him or imprinted that kind of “culture” on him.

Sure, the first rule of fight club is that not to talk about fight club but, for real, no one in this family is in a fight club.

I’m starting to think one of us should be…

Can You Dig It?

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